Conflict Management – Types of Conflicts and Examples

Conflict is a process that begins when one party perceives that another has or is about to negatively affect something that the first party cares about.

Types of Conflicts

The different perspectives of conflict can be classified into three categories

  1. Traditional Viewpoint
  2. Interactionist Viewpoint
  3. Resolution-Focused Viewpoint

1. Traditional Viewpoint

  1. All conflicts are bad and harmful
  2. A conflict is a sign of malfunction in the group
  3. To avoid conflicts, managers must first identify their causes and then take steps to correct the situation.
  4. It is a dysfunctional outcome caused by:
    • Poor communication
    • Lack of trust and openness
    • Manager’s failure to fulfill employees’ needs and aspirations

2. Interactionist Viewpoint

  1. Conflicts are viewed as a positive force that is necessary for a group to perform better.
  2. Conflicts are categorized as functional and dysfunctional.
  3. Functional Conflicts: Constructive in nature and result in improvement in performance
  4. Dysfunctional Conflicts: Destructive in nature and hinder group performance
  5. According to this viewpoint, there are three types of conflicts:
    Task conflict – Related to the content and goals of work. Task conflicts at low or moderate levels are functional in nature.
    Relationship conflict – Related to interpersonal relationships between people. They are usually dysfunctional in nature.
    Process conflict – Related to how work should be done. Process conflicts at low levels are functional in nature.


Amazon – “Conflict brings about Innovation”

Amazon believes that harmony is overvalued in the workplace – It can stifle honest critique and encourage polite praise for flawed ideas.
Instead, Amazonians are instructed to “disagree and commit” – To rip into colleagues’ ideas, with feedback that can be blunt to the point of painful, before lining up behind a decision.
A top management executive at Amazon feels that “It may be easier and socially cohesive to just compromise and not debate, but that may lead to the wrong solution.”

3. Resolution-Focused Viewpoint

Conflicts are considered inevitable, but the focus should be more on how they can be productively resolved.
There needs to be focus on minimising the negative and disruptive effects of conflicts.

Example: Ashok Leyland’s Diploma Program for shop floor workers

Ashok Leyland was facing an issue where its shop floor workers went to the trade unions when it came to solving a work problem or a conflict.
To solve this issue, the company introduced a Diploma in Management Program where students, who had completed schooling, got hands-on training in factories for five days and day-long classroom training on management strategies.

A scholarship of Rs. 5,500 was offered to the short-listed employees. The objective was to create a workplace where workers gets trained on academic and manufacturing skills, and face less work problems in the future.

Dysfunctional Conflicts

  1. Problem-solving – Conflicting parties engage in face-to-face meetings for identifying and discussing problems.
  2. Superordinate goals – A shared goal is created in such a manner that it cannot be achieved without the two conflicting parties cooperating with each other.
  3. Expansion of resources – A win-win solution is created by increasing the availability of resources.
  4. Avoidance – An individual withdraws from the conflict.
  5. Smoothing – It focuses on the common interests of conflicting parties and downplays their differences.
  6. Compromise – Each party in the conflict gives up something of value to them to reach a settlement.
  7. Authoritative command – Management takes charge of a situation and uses its authority and power to resolve conflicts.
  8. Altering human variables – Faulty attitudes and behaviours are changed through human relations training.

Conflict Management Example

General Motors

Due to two consecutive years of workers’ strike, auto maker General Motors set up a three-tier dispute resolution committee to handle conflicts efficiently.

Tier 1 – Supervisors deal with problems faced by the workforce on a daily basis
Tier 2 – If supervisors are unable to help, the matter goes to Nerve Resolution Committee that consists of a group of supervisors, who meet once a week.
Tier 3 – If the issue needs further intervention, it goes to the Central Nerve Resolution Committee that consists of top brass from factories who meet once in a month.

Functional Conflicts

  • Recognizing disagreements – Disagreements must be recognized and resolved by encouraging frank discussions focused on interests rather than on issues.
  • Discussing differences – Opinions on which there are differences must be discussed openly to allow members to develop a common perception and move toward a mutually acceptable solution.
  • Recognizing cultural differences – Recognizing cultural differences between the individuals and the managers themselves will help them effectively manage conflicts.

Negotiations for Conflict Management

“A process in which two or more parties exchange goods or services and attempt to agree on the exchange rate for them.”

Behaviors and conditions for successful negotiations are

  1. Meeting at a neutral venue
  2. Absence of unwanted observers
  3. Mutually decided deadline for conflict resolution
  4. Negotiators should come armed with factual data and information
  5. They must pay careful attention to what is being said and how it is said
  6. Negotiators should make concessions in areas that are less important to them
  7. Participants should focus on the issue at hand and not on individual personalities.
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Article by:

Runal Mehta

Runal brings in more than a decade’s worth of experience in the field of consulting and education. He loves writing research oriented articles at Digiaide.